Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Room of Her Own

Early morning did not go well. Lately, each dawn wages a new battle. It's the 2-year-old toddler struggle-for-control blues. Mommy has to get to work or to an appointment and clothes that are offered first, then with choices displayed, after which are forced over the head or tugged onto flailing legs, are summarily removed and thrown onto the floor. There is wailing and gnashing of teeth (on both sides). There are hugs, pleadings, bribes. There are visits to the back deck to swear at the trees briefly so it is not directed at a wee one.

"Stop! SssshH! Crash!" The rhythm of our mornings lately.

Yesterday morning in particular begins roughly as I must administer a nasal antibiotic spray up each nostril. As a single mother, this involves straddling him, pinning each arm down with a knee and trying to insert the spray end into the nostrils of a head swerving rapidly from right to left and not hate yourself because your little lad is crying and begging you to stop. I finally get the damn spray "bottle" in and it doesn't SPRAY! Why o WHY do manufacturers feel the need to change something that WORKS? This isn't a  plain old bottle you can squeeze so it sprays the old fashioned way. No. It's got some g-d device you are supposed to easily 'click' to administer the antibiotic. I want to throttle the person who invented this. I manage to spray into the other nostril but one of them begins to bleed a little and he is saying, "I'm sowwy. I'm sowwy." As though he has done something he shouldn't have and he thinks I am punishing him. He just wants me to stop. It tortures me that he thinks this is punishment. I hug and hold him for the better part of a half hour and assure him over and over and over that he has done nothing wrong and we just want his nose to get all better. We move on...

I finally get him fed and dressed and as I pull out of the driveway it is now 9:32am. This morning, aside from it being my first day of vacation, I actually had an appointment. My very first portrait session which was to begin at 9am. I manage to pop off an email that I hope to be there by 9:30. Foiled again. I hit every red light on the way to the daycare. Buses which stop every five metres appear out of nowhere in front of me. I rush him into his room and give him big hugs and run down the hallway. My hair is the way it was when I awoke. I have no makeup on. I hit every red light on the way to the appointment. I had promised to bring a coffee and figure this is the least I can do since I am so behind now.

Jubilant about Juliet

When I finally arrive, my friend Carrie is gracious and forgiving. I almost burst into tears explaining the nasal spray, the morning. She remembers. Her youngest is now three and she has four beautiful kids. She remembers this stage of things. We move on to the Great Event as we down our coffees and chat. Beside me on her kitchen table sits an advanced reading copy of her latest short story collection, The Juliet Stories, due to hit bookstores in March. I remove the lens cover as we chat about the excitement of this collection of stories, now a solid thing in her hands. She is jubilant. Capturing her hands at this moment is like trying to capture my toddler. The blur of motion as she handles her new 'baby' belies a thrilling ecstasy beneath Carrie's generally calm composure.

Writing haven off the kitchen...

Carrie and I got into photography a bit more pronouncedly as a creative outlet close to the same time a couple of years ago. We have recently been discussing a joint (ad)venture involving our mutual facebook friends, of which we have 34. It is inpsired by an etsy post I'd recently come across. A few months back I described to Carrie the idea for a project of my own entitled "ipowr". The anagram stands for Intriguing People of Waterloo Region but also a play on how powerful photography can be and what the "eye" (the one behind the lens, the glass 'eye' of the camera) captures. Ipowr is a portraiture project I hope will encompass images captured and journalistic features on people who live in my area; people who are accomplishing and exploring intriguing things, both on a small scale and a big one. I'm starting big and have asked Carrie to be my first 'victim'.

Aunt Alice's Chair

Recently, Carrie's beautiful, Victorian home has undergone a new facelift. The prospect of a brand new porch meant that, for a stay-at-home-mum of four who is also a writer, a new office space all her own could be factored in. I open the original door of bubbled glass. A small office takes up part of the original front porch in the house. As I step into the space, the first thing which greets me is the heated floor. I am thrilled for Carrie and what this wee haven means for her. The left wall of the office as I enter is a warm redbrick. The ceiling height is majestic and three gorgeous, marbled lamps reach down to hover over Carrie's head as she works at her mac.

'The Carrie Stories' Photo Shoot

The photo I want to take, the photo I have imagined to kick off my new photography project will have to wait. This morning I'm here to capture the author in A Room of Her Own. And she owns the space as she enters it. I ask her a gazillion questions about her writing process, about her upcoming collection of short stories set in Nicaragua, about what inspires her and how the stories came to be. Carrie begins my photo session by grabbing her own camera and shooting some of me. I laugh. As the photographer, this is something I clearly was not expecting. My unkempt hair. Face sans makeup. Clothes thrown on from the floor of my bedroom that morning. But it's an act that puts us both more at ease as the shoot formally begins.

(Not So) Still Life with Redhead

We have a great session and I feel 100 times better than I did two hours before. Plus, I now know new things I didn't know about this friend of mine I've known on and off since we were in our 20s. She inspires me with her energy, her writing, her motherhood and her grace. I feel thankful to know her and that she's helping me to give birth to my own project just as her latest one is arriving in her own arms. Fitting as, outside of being a writer, mother of four and a triathlete, she is also a certified doula. I know this is all the tip of the iceberg called Carrie Snyder. Check out her wonderful blog. She'll hardly remain obscure for long, I warrant. You'll have to change the blog name, Carrie!

Just as lovely in black and white

And I await with bubbling anticipation our next shoot! Today is the first day of Winter and tomorrow's dawn will bring just that little bit more of sunlight into our days. Thanks, Carrie, for making the eve of the Darkest Night of the Year so bright for me!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Want

He turned 2 1/2 years old last month. This is the first Christmas he is 'aware' of someone called Santa. That he knows Rudolph is a reindeer with a red nose. I am teaching him as much as his little mind will comprehend about the Wintry Solstice (the hollyday his mum prefers). This time last year, we had a lot more snow in our old village than the light dusting that has fallen thus far where we now reside. I'm praying for a storm.

snow falling on cedars

This past weekend my parents took him while I went out into the country and came home with a scotch pine, wobbling my unwieldy load through the side door and plopping it inside the stand. It is still lopsided. I can't get it straight and haven't decorated it yet other than adding the lights he insisted should be on it. We will decorate it together next Saturday and I will make popcorn and string it and hope he doesn't decide to eat it off the tree.

December morning, bananas and honey

I am cherishing this Christmas. I imagine it is the simplest it might ever be. When I tried to explain to him about Christmas morning and getting a present, he studied me carefully. I asked him, "what would you like under the tree?" and held my breath. His first instinct was to shout the name of the daughter of close friends of ours. I try to explain to him that we can't put people under the tree as gifts (HA!) and what kind of present might he like.

He said, "My want...a red present!"
He said, "Mommy get a blue present!"

"Perfect!" said I.

And that is how I feel. I think to myself, "you are my little blue present, sweet boy." The morning of the 22nd, which is when Solstice falls this year, he and I will open these colourful presents, whatever they are and I will leave a few more under the tree for Christmas morning. Undoubtedly he'll have a few more to open at his grandparents.

handful of stars

But as I become increasingly disillusioned with how commercial this season becomes, I cherish this moment in my heart. I know in a couple of years a tinge of its complete innocence will be lost to him describing to me exactly what brand and what name of item he wants: "not the one with the..." this, "but the one with the..." that. I know he will still hold a lot of innocence for many years to come. I'm turning 45 next month and like to think (I hope) that I still do.

But this moment. This moment. This Christmas.
This one I will always remember as perfect in its simplicity.

Some close friends will gather with us at our home the evening of the Solstice and I will fill paper bags with sand and stick tiny white candles upright in them, light them and line them up and down my driveway and along the porch to guide them to the wassail warming on my stove.

tin tree

And hopefully I can instil in him the importance of giving back. To the community in which we live. To the earth. To thank our yule tree for coming into our house. When we burn the yule log from last year's tree. To the sun for warming our toes again as she stretches the days back towards Summer Solstice. To the cherished gift that is friendship and the reason his very first instinct was to shout my friends' daughters name as the perfect gift for him on Christmas morn. That is what "my want".

peace on earth

Happy holly days, everyone!